The Budget 2011 and data journalism


The Budget announcement is all about numbers, and lots of them.  This is data that affects everyone in the UK in some form or another.  There is huge potential for good data journalism, so where do you start?

Where to get the data officially?

All the documents released officially by HM Treasury can be found on a special ‘Budget 2011 Documents’ page, just click here to see them all.

The infuriating problem however is that ALL THE DOCUMENTS ARE IN PDF FORMAT.  How nice of the government to release data on such an inflexible platform.  So much for the ethos of usability and availability of the data.gov.uk scheme.  Nevertheless, download the complete PDF document directly here.

If you don’t quite trust the numbers, you can read about data sources behind the Budget.  Download directly here (WARNING: Also a PDF).

The Office for Budget Responsibility is a bit more user friendly to the data journalist.  It has published its ‘Economic and fiscal outlook’ in conjunction with the Budget announcement.

The majority of the documents are PDF, but there are 2 Excel spreadsheets under ‘Supplementary Data.’  To download ‘supplementary economy tables’ directly, click here.  To download ‘supplementary fiscal tables’ directly, click here.

There is even a HM Treasury Flickr photostream!  For ready made charts, based on the Budget estimates, take a look here.  Not very usable data mind you.

So the government hasn’t exactly been particularly open and sharing with their Budget data.  Must do better please HM Treasury.

Guardian Data Store

Not to worry, the pioneering team of data journalists at The Guardian have compiled an initial data set.  To see the whole article, click here.  Alternatively download their data directly here.  You can really start to play around with the Budget numbers now.  A big hint for data.gov.uk

Visualising the Budget 2011

I made a quick data set of estimated government income and spending for 2011-12 that you can find here.

This is a visualisation that I put together (using ManyEyes) within a few hours of the Budget announcement.  It compares estimated government spending against estimated government receipts for 2011-2012.

In billions of pounds, this is the estimated government SPENDING…

Estimated government spending 2011-2012

And the estimated INCOME (in billions of pounds)…

Screen shot 2011-03-23 at 18.14.15

(To interact with the visualisations, click here for spending and here for income).

Instantly we can see that:

  • the totals do not match, which means that £122 billion must be borrowed
  • the biggest source of income (income tax) does not cover the biggest outgoing (social protection)
  • spending on debt interest is more than the government gets from excise duties, or corporation tax, or council tax, or business rates

Let me know if you make/see any great examples of data journalism in the Budget 2011 coverage.

By Michael Greenfield (@mgreenfield13)

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